Leisure Myths and Mythmaking
Call for Papers
Deadline: 30 April 2019
Authors are invited to submit abstracts of 500 words to the guest editors, describing in-depth empirical, conceptual and reflexive topics that explore leisure myths and mythmaking.
Visit the Leisure Sciences Instructions for Authors for further information.
This special issue invites papers that explore myths, mythologies and mythmaking within leisure scholarship. Leisure scholarship has deep links—sometimes recognized, often less so—with myths. For example, leisure scholars have wrestled with myths of individual freedom (Carr, 2017), utopia and dystopia (Burnett & Rollin, 2000), “the leisure society” (Roberts, 1978; Veal, 2011), myths of wilderness (Nash, 2014), and myths of work vs. non-work (Carter, 1970; Kaun 1969; Roberts & Rupert, 1995). In other examples, scholars have interrogated mythologies of leisure and masculinities (Blackshaw, 2003) and femininities (Shaw, 1994). Myth has also been linked to notions of leisure and nationalism (Spracklen, 2013), unruly youth or folk devils (Blackman, 2011), leisure and “race” (Hylton, 2005), and leisure and aging (Dionigi, 2006). Other scholarship has been critical of leisure mythmaking in terms of popular culture, music, and media (Bennett, 2002; Sharpe & Lashua, 2008).
Beyond this, there are place myths at play in leisure and tourism, such as in studies of the seaside (Walton, 2001), parks, “the countryside” and tourist destinations. In short, as an organizing principle or a way of looking at the world, the construction—or deconstruction—of myths occupies a central, if under-acknowledged, space in leisure scholarship.
Myths are more than fables, fictions, fairy tales or falsehoods; a myth can be considered “a story by which a culture explains or understands some aspect of reality or nature” (Fiske, 1990, p. 88). Myths are deeply embedded in the construction of cultural meanings that privilege particular versions of shared social realities. For Barthes (1972) myths are part of the culture of everyday life through which people learn of right and wrong, good and bad, and “us and them”, as seen in entertainment, sports (e.g., wrestling), magazines, advertisements, films, newspapers, food, clothes and music (Manan & Smith, 2014).
Writing on “the world of wrestling”, Barthes (1972, p. 15) argued:
'The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees.'
More than simply “real” or “fake”, what matters, at least for Barthes, is the powerful symbolism of wrestling: all of life’s theatre made manifest through the spectacle of “Suffering, Defeat, and Justice.” Indeed, “what wrestling is above all meant to portray is a purely moral concept: that of justice”; every part of the wrestling spectacle is intended to signify that “good” will ultimately prevail over “evil” (Barthes, 1972, p. 21). Barthes might call this a meta-message that leisure practices carry (Hall, 1996); they “say something” that both reveals and obscures particular worldviews. In this, myths intone both “truth” and “fantasy”; more critically, mythologies can serve as metaphors or allegories for broader social relations (e.g., who does, or does not, belong?), processes (e.g., the ways leisure research “should” be done), or crises in the field (Bramham, 2006; Henderson, 2010; Fletcher, Carnicelli, Lawrence, & Snape, 2017). As such, myth is a powerful lens through which to interrogate historical and contemporary leisure research, theories and concepts, events, histories, and biographies.
Mythmaking is invariably, if inadvertently, bound up in “writing leisure”, as Ken Roberts (2018, p. 3) argued: “throughout the history of leisure studies we have been searching for really good stories.” In these stories, mythmaking takes on powerful significance (that is, myths signify), e.g., in “origin stories” of the field, in biographies of key figures or leisure providers, in scholarship about the leisure of specific groups, and in tales retold of notable events and activities. Some narratives are mythic without intent—which Barthes (1972) refers to as “depoliticised speech” or unchallenged interpretation—and these reproduce dominant social relations while perpetuating taken-for-granted, assumed, or otherwise “natural” meanings. Myths such as these invite critical debunking by addressing particular social injustices or hidden histories, e.g., in calls for the decolonization of leisure histories that have excluded or obscured particular groups or cultures such as Indigenous people (e.g., Fox, 2007); in challenging mythic stereotypes about gender (Parry, 2018), ‘race’ (Mowatt, Floyd & Hylton, 2018), diverse sexualities (Johnson, 2008), and the representation of people with disabilities (Kuppan, 2017). Others have cautioned that leisure myths obfuscate questions of freedom and consumerism. For Carr (2017, p. 137), “leisure experienced by the majority of people is a socio-economic construct where freedom is a myth and consumption rules.” Across this scholarship, de-bunking myths opens possibilities for re-invention and critical transformations of the field. Accordingly, we invite papers that address:
- Leisure histories, historiography and mythologies
- Leisure and place myths
- Social (in)justice and leisure myths
- Myth, media, and representations of leisure
- Recreation, leisure and urban spatial fantasies
- Myth, celebrity, and leisure
- Myths, fairy tales, fables and “writing leisure”
- Mythic biographies and key figures in recreation and leisure
- Mythologies of leisure and nationalism
- Myths of nature, wilderness, and the ‘outdoors’
- Myth and leisure theory
- Myth, memory, nostalgia and leisure
- Myths of belonging, communities, and leisure-based social networks
- Mythologies and borders, border crossings and leisure
Myths offer powerful ways of making sense of the world. Writing about leisure, we contend, is replete with myths—“at the level of connotations, the secondary, often unconscious meanings, texts and practices carry, or can be made to carry” (Storey, 1997, p. 6). This special issue invites papers that debunk, expose, re-examine and rewrite leisure mythologies.